Sell What You Sing (or Dance)

Tonight in chorale rehearsal we spent a lot of time on the Irving Berlin medley we’re performing for our spring concert. Now I’m feeling all jazzy. No one makes me want to put on a top hat and do a time step more than good ol’ Irv.

Lots of things I learn in chorale can be applied to the dance, which is why I appreciate it so much and won’t give it up. For example, our director often tells us to “sell what you sing” — meaning sing with conviction, energy; don’t just sing the words. Because if you sing a bright, syncopated tune like “Puttin’ on the Ritz” with a straight face and zero bounce, it just doesn’t fly. In fact, it just sucks all the fun right out of it. No, no, no. You have to sell what you sing. Make the audience want to join in or wish they knew the words. Make them want to get up and dance. Leaving them humming a tune all the way home.

So after two hours of selling what I sing tonight, I sang that song all the way home. Then I went looking for the clip of Fred Astaire performing it. I LOVE this. The clip doesn’t include his singing; just the last part of the awesome dance. The bulerias portion, if you will. That last minute or so when he’s picked up the pace, giving it his all, throwing down that contratiempo and finishing with a bang.

Singing, dancing, tap, flamenco, whatever. It’s all about selling it. A song is just a melody, just like a bunch of steps is just a dance. But a performance is an experience. That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout.


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